As a “group of European countries that participates in the world economy as one economic unit and operates under one official currency, the euro” (Investopedia, 2013) European Union (EU) has specific measures, rules and regulations that govern employment relations and human resources management aspect of businesses in its territory.
The most significant themes related to employment issues in EU include specific characteristics of Euro HRM, EU social charter, employment issues and rights within EU, and European employment law. Specific characteristics of Euro HRM relate to legislative framework, trade union and consultation, and pattern of ownership among other issues and these points need to be taken into account by expatriates with assignments within the EU.
Moreover, there are certain differences in HRM practices within the among the EU countries as well. It has to be stressed that “the differences in HRM within European countries stem from national factors, namely cultural values and norms, societal structure and language, from company factors, including size, ownership and geographical scope of companies and also from regional factors, such as north/south or east/west divide” (Nikandrou et al., 2006, p.178).
European Social Charter as an important treaty adopted in 1961 deals with human rights and freedom issues associated with employment relations. The Charter has been revised in 1996 and it has been ratified by all members of EU. The fundamental employee rights have been specified in the Charter and the most significant points include the freedom of movement, freedom of association, protection of health, equal treatment of both genders, social protection etc.
European Social Charter as an international labour law within EU has made significant contribution to dealings with expatriates not only within EU but also to a global scale to a certain extent. This contribution relates to the fact that expatriates coming to EU countries are treated according to employment relations principles set out in the European Social Charter, and thus they benefit from these in the same way as domestic workers.
Moreover, employment issues within EU with immediate implications for expatriates include the recognition of diplomas, specifications job seeking practices, employment rights and freedom of service provision. The issue of recognition of diplomas in particular has been a subject of much debate recently as it has been stated that “the EU has pursued various strategies with the regard to the recognition of diplomas. The vertical approach that was adopted in the 1970s aimed at tackling recognition problems profession-by-profession, and which entitled minimum harmonisation of the education required for the respective profession was eventually abandoned” (Garben, 2011, p.70).
In general employment law within EU echoes regulations in relation to common employment relations practices such as employment contracts, working time regulations, business restructuring, employee pension rights and social security etc.
However, some emergent themes within EU employment law include zero tolerance to discrimination, equal treatment of and opportunities for genders, flexible employment patterns, maternity rights and paternal leave, and the protection of employee personal data do not have their analogues in some countries outside of EU, and thus they contribute to the numbers of expatriates coming in the EU.
Moreover, the issue of employee social security in particular is one of the major points comprehensively addressed by relevant legislations in EU employment law. Specific points within this topic that have been addressed in employment law in a detailed manner include sickness, maternity and paternity benefits, pensions due to old age, compensations for accidents at work and occupational diseases, and other relevant tangible benefits.
Specific factors that contribute to the migration of workforce within EU and attract expatriates from outside of EU include competitive rates of payment, intangible benefits of the employment, effective labour social protection policies and lifestyles.
Within the scope of Treaty of Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) Articles 45-48 have significant practical implications in terms of encouraging employee migration within the EU. Namely, Articles 45-48 grant citizens of EU member countries the right to move freely and find employment anywhere within the EU, not being subjected to discrimination on the basis of nationality. However, this article is subject to certain exceptions that relate to the protection of public policy, security and health.
As one of the largest economies within the European Union, UK has traditionally attracted expatriates from within EU and globally to a greater extent compared to many other EU member states. However, the situation is changing at the moment with worsening economic situation within the country, and the UK government having to respond to the situation with certain economic and political measures that put domestic workers in favourable position compared to expatriates in terms of employment opportunities.
These measures include, but not limited to imposing cap to the numbers of work permits issued per year, having expatriates registered with a particular employer for the whole duration of their visa etc.
Major global political and economic events during the last several decades have resulted in forces of globalisation to intensify, which in its turn promoted increasing numbers of people all over the world seeking employment opportunities in different countries for a wide range of reasons.
Moreover, a set of additional factors contributed to the numbers of expatriates to increase globally and these include the positive impact of relevant employment laws issued within the scope of European Social Charter, Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and International Labour Organisation, and others, as well as, relevant local labour laws within and outside of EU.
Arguably, while the advantages of employment mobility created within EU through treaties and conventions mentions above, and benefits for expatriates are obvious; these regulations are partially to blame for current economic issues within the EU.
Definitions of “European Union – EU” (2013) Investopedia, Available at: http://www.investopedia.com/terms/e/europeanunion.asp#axzz21bUf7yy7
Garben, S. (2011) “EU Higher Education Law: The Bologna Process and Harmonisation by Stealth” Kluwer Law International
Nikandrou, I., Cunha, R.C. & Papalexandris, N. (2006) “Managing Human Resources in Europe” Routledge